My great great grandfather George Brooker was born on 14 February 1846. He was the son of James Brooker and Jane Hall. My great great grandmother Mary Ann Darts was born in 1845 and was the daughter of Benjamin Darts* and Ann Hall. George and Mary married in Wrestlingworth in 1867, where they lived throughout their lives.
The 1851 census shows George Brooker, aged five at Cambridge Road, Wrestlingworth, Biggleswade. James and Jane are both aged 29 and James is working as a farm labourer. George has one sister, Sarah and a brother Joseph. In 1861 the family can be found at Water End, Wrestlingworth, Biggleswade. George is now 15 and he has three brothers, John, Nineon and Joseph.
I believe I have found the Darts family on the 1851 census too. Benjamin Darts aged 35 is recorded as a farm labourer born in Wrestlingworth. He is living at Potton End and recorded as having a wife named Ann Dort aged 32 and four children – Matilda Dart, Mary Ann Dort, Benjamin Dort and Sarah Dort. However, in 1861, Benjamin aged 44 is recorded as a widower with four children – Matilda, Benjamin, Sarah and Harriett Darts, again living at Water End, Wrestlingworth, Biggleswade. The 1871 census shows Benjamin and daughter Sarah living alone at Fast and Last, Wrestlingworth.
The 1871 census also shows that George is now married to my great great grandmother Mary Ann. They are living at Fast and Last in Wrestlingworth with a daughter, Lucy A Brooker, aged three. In 1881, living at Water End, they have six children – Louisa A, Harriet, Jane, Alice, David (my great grandfather). In 1891 they are recorded with children, David, Arthur, Sam and Alice. In 1901 they are again in Wrestlingworth with children David and Samuel and grandson William, aged two, who was born in Middlesex.
The Brooker and Darts family appear to have been neighbours. The 1861 census shows the Brooker family living at Water End, Wrestlingworth, Biggleswade. The Darts family can be found living there on the same census. The 1871 census shows George and Mary Ann Darts and their daughter Lucy living at Fast and Last, Wrestlingworth, Biggleswade. Benjamin Darts and his daughter Sarah can be found living there too.
The First and Last
The First and Last appears to have been a beer house. Images of the beer house can be found on the Bedfordshire Archives website.
Beer houses were created by the 1830 Beer Act, when the government tried to create a free market in beer and they were controlled by the excise department. As long as a few basic conditions were met, beer house licenses were granted automatically.
Neither George or Benjamin were the licencee of The First and Last beer house. Bedfordshire archives have advised that at the time the census was taken, the beer house appears to have been the last property to have a name of number so this has been continued to following properties. Benjamin and George are both recorded as the head of their household and // indicates the end of a household which shows they lived in separate properties but no street name or property number is given. In 1871 Charles Masters is in fact recorded as the publican in 1871 and again in 1891.
- Bedfordshire Archives
- British History Online: Wrestlingworth
- Wrestlingworth History Society
- Census abbreviations
- The rise and fall of beer houses
* A Benjamin Darts, aged 27 and born in 1814 is recorded on the 1841 census at
Wrestlingworth, Biggleswade in the home of Samuel Hall, where he also lives with
with Ann Hall aged 22. Household members include those with the name Darts and
those with the name Hall.